Case Study – Robotic CNC Machine Tending

April 12, 2019

APT Machine Tender with FANUC Robodrill

Project Summary

APT Manufacturing Solutions implemented a machine tender (robot load/unload) on a FANUC Robodrill project to run a production machining part. APT is a FANUC robot integrator and has knowledge in both machining and robot automation. Like other manufacturers, this customer has had to overcome workforce shortages and this was one opportunity to tackle this problem.

There were a number of challenges to overcome on the project, but in the end, the machine runs 33% more efficient with a robot than with a human operator, making this a worthwhile investment for the customer. 

“The robot has helped significantly to increase productions and machine utilization. Now, one of our people can run two or three machines, which keeps this product moving through all shifts.”

-Jeff, Director of Operations

Project Challenges

One of the major challenges in this project was deburring the part. This part has many edges and some on the underside, and the operator was deburring the part during the CNC cycle. APT had the option to add a deburr wheel to the machine tender and let the robot deburr but was trying to minimize investment and maximize ROI. After creative programming on the CNC machine, deburring is now handled complete on the FANUC Robodrill.
Another challenge involved the customer working with the staff to understand that the robot was not going to take their job, but was going to help them be more efficient and keep machines running.
Lastly, once the robot was tested and reliable, workers stopped paying attention to it and would forget to load product. The addition of a horn solved this problem and allowed throughput to accelerate.

Project Results

In the end, the CNC cycle time increased by 20 seconds when adding the robot because a human can actually load and unload the machine faster than the robot. However, the robot consistency allowed for the effective cycle time to decrease by 1 minute 30 seconds over an 8 hour shift.
The number of parts produced in an 8 hour shift increased from 100 to over 150 with the addition of the robot machine tender.

“Addressing the skills gap is a necessary evil for all manufacturers. As a FANUC robot integrator, we continue to see robots utilized successfully to boost labor shortages as well as increase throughput.”

-Tony Nighswander, President of APT

Project Investment and Anticipated Return

Was it worth the investment? See for yourself!

  • Project investment: $87,000
  • Shop Rate (per minute): $1.16
  • Minutes saved per part: 1.5
  • Dollars saved per part: $1.74
  • Parts per week (2 shifts, 5 days): 1500
  • Dollars saved per week: $2610
  • Return on Investment: 33 weeks

APT Manufacturing Solutions, founded in 1996, specializes in solving problems for manufacturers. It is among the largest machine shops in the area, as well as welding and fabrication. APT serves leading manufacturers with custom designed and built gauges, along with custom machines, packaging equipment, and full assembly lines. APT is an authorized FANUC robot integrator, the leading robot manufacturer in the world, and serves a wide range of customers in the automotive, food, pharmaceutical, firearms, and aerospace, and furniture industries.